GOP group slams Tennessee Bar Association poll on judge retention

GOP group slams Tennessee Bar Association poll on judge retention

June 13th, 2014 by Andy Sher in Local - Breaking News

NASHVILLE - A Republican group opposed to the reelection of three Democratic justices on the Tennessee Supreme Court is blasting a new Tennessee Bar Association poll showing its members overwhelmingly favoring keeping the judges.

Grant Everett Starrett, president and co-founder of Tennesseans for Judicial Accountability, charged in a news release that the results were "about as predictable as Pravada asking party members their approval rating of the Politburo."

Tennessee Bar Association officials said the poll of 2,100 members found nine out of 10 lawyers recommend Tennesseans vote to "retain" the three Tennessee Supreme Court Justices on the Aug. 7 ballot.

Another Tennesseans for Judicial Accountability co-founder, J. Ammon Smartt, a Chattanooga native who is an associate with Nashville-based law and lobby firm Waller Landsden Dortch & Davis, said that "having led judicial reform efforts in Tennessee for many years, this unscientific push poll comes as no surprise to me."

Smartt said as a one-time bar association member, "I have seen the bar engage similar tactics in the past. They often drag along members who, but for the influence the bench and the bar have over their careers, would outright oppose efforts like this push poll."

Starrett and Smartt took issue with the questions asked and charged the TBA is "clearly in favor of retention" and generated poll questions to get "a desired result."

The first-ever TBA poll of its members gave four possible options. They were highly

recommend retention, recommend retention, do not recommend retention and do not

have an informed opinion at this time. The critics said that left "only one of four options against the judges."

TBA officials say the association is not taking a position on the retention question. In Tennessee, appellate judges do not run in competitive elections but on yes/no retention ballots.

Republican State Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey is leading an effort to defeat Chief Justice Gary Wage and fellow Justices Connie Clark and Sharon Lee. The effort to defeat the justices has been criticized by a bipartian group of former justices and appellate judges, including retired Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Mickey Barker, a Signal Mountain Republican.